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Parenting a New Baby Can Feel Overwhelming
Life with a newborn is an exciting time with many new experiences for you and your baby. But it can also be a difficult time fraught with sleepless nights, non-stop diaper changings, feedings and so much more. So while you are joyful about the new addition to your family, you may also be feeling utterly sleep-deprived, overloaded, and in some cases, a little depressed or anxious.*
Here, we share our formula for reducing the overwhelm that comes with becoming a first-time parent.
Step One: Let go of what you can
Our first strategy for coping with new-parent reality is to let go of some things. In the months (or maybe years) leading up to the birth of your baby, you likely had a beautiful (albeit unrealistic) vision for how things would be once you got home. Now that you’re actually home with your new baby, reality may not be lining up with that vision...at all. By taking a step back and assessing what’s on your plate, you may be able to let go of some things to create physical and mental space (and peace) in your life.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed as a new parent, you may have to let go of some things that just aren’t working or are creating more stress than joy. For example, perhaps you had always planned to breastfeed and dreamed of how you would sit in a rocking chair in the nursery peacefully rocking your baby while the two of you bonded. But now that you’re home, nursing could be creating more stress than peace for you and your baby. Maybe you are really struggling to get your baby to latch or maybe he or she isn’t getting enough milk. Or perhaps nursing every few hours around the clock is making you so sleep-deprived you can barely function. Whatever the reasons, take a step back and assess whether or not breastfeeding is something you can let go of. Deciding not to breastfeed does not make you a bad parent. If switching to formula means more rest, more peace and more joy, the tradeoff is worth it.
If you’re feeling overloaded and exhausted, make a list of all the things you’re doing on a daily (and nightly) basis. Include everything - nighttime feedings, daytime feedings, diaper changes, laundry, dishes, taking the trash out, meal preparation, grocery shopping, doctor visits - every single thing you’re currently doing goes on the list. Next, assess each item on the list and determine if it’s something you can let go of. For example, if you’re preparing meals for the rest of your family, the grocery store has countless healthy, premade meal options instead of cooking. If grocery shopping is on your list, start ordering online and have it delivered. If dropping your other kids at soccer practice is on the list, find a carpool or a family member to take over. Be ruthlessly vigilant in cutting tasks, delegating tasks or making tasks easier/better and feel the stress and overwhelm begin to blissfully dissipate.
Step Two: Get help...lots of help
This next strategy goes hand-in-hand with our first strategy. When you’re home with a new baby you need help...lots of help. There is no way around this. The truth is, the people who love you want to help. Your job is to accept it. When your mother offers to make dinners for the next week…”yes.” When your best friend asks what she can do to help, you answer “laundry.” When a neighbor offers to coordinate a meal train, you say “wonderful!” Take all the help that is offered and then ask for more!
Maybe you’re one of those people who find it hard accepting help from others even when it’s offered. Or perhaps you want to be able to handle all your “parenting duties” by yourself? These are common reasons why people don’t ask for help even when they’re drowning in daily tasks and exhaustion. But the truth is, right now, you need to flip this mindset and start saying yes to anyone who offers help. Practice saying yes so it rolls off your tongue easily. It doesn’t make you weak to ask for help, in fact, it’s an act of strength and courage to accept help when you need it. The people who care about you want to help you...so start letting them in and feel your overwhelm decrease one offloaded task at a time.
If you don’t have the luxury of a support system of family and friends then you will need to hire some help. Find a housekeeper who will also do laundry and potentially cook. Have your meals and/or groceries delivered. Hire a night nanny a few nights a week to help you get sleep. Find a local babysitter who can watch the baby for an hour during the day while you sleep. Do whatever it takes to feel less stressed, more rested and notice the joy creeping back into your days.
We want to be there for you every step (or crawl) of the way.
The Wunder Education Team compiled the best of recommendations based on research from Harvard, MIT, Child Mind Institute, American Academy of Pediatrics and their own home-visiting experience to curate an easy-to-understand course with 12 weekly videos, weekly Q&As and developmentally-appropriate recommendations.
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We created this 12-week program to answer these questions and provide you with science-based guidance for the most critical first 1000 days.
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Being a brand new parent is equal parts wonderful and overwhelming. It’s only when we try to be a “super-parent” and deny our need for help that we suffer. Be gentle with yourself during this new transition. Use our approach to start increasing the peace and joy in your life so you can savor the joy of being a new parent.